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Back on Stage

Wenona performers lit up the stage in two major productions this week, a welcome return after an almost three-year hiatus.

The anticipation inside The Independent Theatre was palpable on Wednesday night, as our secondary school cast of The Crucible, prepared to tread the boards before the first live Wenona audience in years.

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“It is wonderful to bring a Drama production back to the stage at Wenona. The most powerful thing about theatre is that it is live. It is an interaction between audience and actor and when a play is at its best, actors and audience join in creating the event together. How exciting to be able to do this again”, said Head of Drama Tiffany Crittle.

For many members of the cast, it was their acting debut, and they did well to communicate the universal human themes in Arthur Miller’s challenging political text about the 1692 Salem witch hunts.

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The play was directed by actress Lizzie Schebesta, best known for her roles in Underbelly and MR Inbetween, and who most recently appeared in A Dolls House at The Ensemble Theatre.

“Through the rehearsal process, I really challenged the cast to approach their characters with curiosity and without judgement”, Ms Schebesta said. “All were real people who lived once and found themselves caught in the quagmire of this imploding community. Nothing about this complex and widespread series of events was simple and our greatest task was to humanise each and every one of these characters”.

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Though full of the brooding, dark atmosphere of 1600s, the play could not be more relevant to the digital age, with its themes of mass hysteria, the spreading of false stories, public humiliation and shame.

“Theatre provides a unique opportunity for young people to learn about what it is to be human” said Ms Crittle. “They learn through literally stepping into another’s shoes. Rehearsals also ask our young people to stretch into places they have not gone before”.

“We had a wonderful time putting the play together. I learned so much from the passion commitment and inquisitiveness of the girls at Wenona. I am so proud of what this cast has achieved and hope the lessons of this play will stay with them long after the production”, Ms Schebesta said.

Further north at The Concourse in Chatswood, just under 300 Junior School students are bringing buckets of charm to our production of the crowd-pleasing musical Annie JR.

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Few are unfamiliar with the classic Great Depression tale that follows the exploits of Little Orphan Annie, as she journeys to find her parents and learns the true meaning of family.

This is the second time the Wenona Performing Arts Department has attempted to stage the show after the 2020 production came to a grinding halt due to COVID-19 lockdowns.

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“The students on stage this week have never participated in a Wenona musical before, which has made this production even more exciting for everyone”, said Director of Performing Arts Ms Kim Lemon. “Our Year 5 and 6 students are due special credit. Despite their lack of experience, they have energetically thrown themselves into auditioning for lead roles and worked together brilliantly”.

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It is a monumental effort to audition, rehearse, and coordinate a huge double cast through a myriad of stage entries and exits, but the payoff has been worth it – great music, uplifting performances, and high praise from enthusiastic crowds.

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